Twenty years? It seems like longer than that.
But here's an article that appears in the conservative journal Human Events.
Apparently it's some kind of special "Rush Limbaugh Week" over there. So you're likely to find more of this kind of stuff:
Rush: The Engine of Conservatism
by Mark R. Levin (more by this author)
Posted 07/28/2008 ET
...Those of us who were alive and attentive during the 1960's and 1970's know what it would be like if there wasn't a Rush Limbaugh.
Rush didn't have to buy a newspaper or television network to be heard. By the force of his brilliance and talent, he took the dying AM radio band and turned it into the most consequential and thriving media forum in the nation. Everyday at noon eastern time, millions and millions of Americans tune into the Rush Limbaugh Show to listen to Rush deconstruct the day's events, skewer the liberal mind-set, and educate about America's greatness. There's really nobody like him -- on or off the radio. He is a uniquely American icon. His influence on American culture is of a kind with Mark Twain and Will Rogers.
Hmm. I know what kind of drugs Rush was on, but I wonder what kind of drugs this guy was on, when he wrote this? "Mark Twain and Will Rogers?" Known for their humanity, whereas Rush is known for AIDS jokes. I was around the last twenty years, too--I remember when Rush announced the death of an advocate for the homeless by telling listeners that "he had achieved room temperature," I remember the episode of his television show that identified teenaged Chelsea Clinton as the "White House dog," I remember him asserting that tens of thousands of slaves could not have died during the Middle Passage across the Atlantic because slavers could not have been such bad businessmen. Et cetera, et cetera, it went on every day.
I cannot for the life of me see Mark Twain and Will Rogers in that kind of commentary, that kind of sick worldview and unrepentant heartlessness. It's significant that the author doesn't quote Limbaugh "to show how great he is--": it's amazing that someone who has talked so so much, has said so little worth remembering, worth quoting? He's been doing political commentary for decades; can anyone remember any observation worth quoting as political wisdom? All I find really memorable was his repeated accusations about the Clinton being murderers. I guess if lies and calumny are what pass for conservative "wit and wisdom" he deserves the applause of such an audience. But it's really not fair to Twain and Rogers to drag them out of their graves; they made innumerable memorable observations--and the comparison of a lying right wing demagogue to Mark Twain and Will Rogers is odious.
Think about Rush's living legacy: he has created a genre of public discourse that reaches every corner of this nation -- and beyond. He entertains and educates millions and millions of people everyday as they go about their daily routines -- in their homes, offices, automobiles and other venues. He discusses current events, history, economics, law -- you name it -- in a seemingly effortless way. He not only speaks from the mind, but from the heart. He believes what he says and takes joy in tweaking the powerful. And most of all, Rush is sincere in his affection for his audience, and they for him. It is a bond that has withstood the test of time, and multiple efforts to break it.
You know, I never did believe for a moment that Limbaugh "spoke from his heart" or "believed what he said." A person with a heart and brain couldn't believe anything that Limbaugh said; at best it's cherry-picked out-of-context new clippings that distort rather than answer questions; at its worst it's lies, false accusations, demonization of his fellow Americans, and glorification of the corrupt and incompetent. (Rush was made an honorary member of the GOP Congress of '94, which he helped bring to power.)
As to whether he believe what he says: you have to remember that whenever Limbaugh was confronted with the fact that he had misreported or distorted a fact, the classic response from Rush and his supporters was that he was not bound by the rules of journalism because he was "an entertainer." So there is no need to try to convince us that he really believes what he is saying--when his own fans explain his daily distortions as "entertainment," they are announcing that they don't really believe his lies either--it's an act.
In fact, it's Dr. Goebbel's act--a propaganda act (work up the anger and achieve the agenda, without respect for the truth or the facts), combined at first with the comedic sensibility of Howard Stern ("AIDS jokes" and "Chappaquiddick jokes" and "homeless jokes" are funny.) That's what made Rush "take off" in the 80s. That's what inspired hordes of local clones in local radio markets, whose shows follow Rush's. It's the Two Minutes Hate described by George Orwell, but it goes on hour after hour after hour, all over America.
...And where would the conservative movement be without Rush? Is there anyone who can fill his shoes? Is there anyone who better explains and promotes conservatism? Is there anyone who better challenges those who claim conservatism’s death and would "reinvent" it to accommodate its critics?...
No, I can't think of anyone better to defend the charge that conservatism is dead. After the revelations years ago about Limbaugh's illegal abuse of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of illegally purchased drugs--I followed his show's ratings. I looked in vain for a drop-off in audience, I looked for his conservative audience to hold him accountable for breaking the law and engaging in years of secret drug abuse to fuel his show.
Hypocrisy is a core component of conservatism, the notion of justice is alien to "the movement"--Rush's career is daily proof of that. It's not an ideology, it's not a worldview, it's not even a political philosophy--it's the will of people like Rush, and they can never be held accountable because they give the commands--"the marching orders."